Monster Energy. The company’s name is enough to set the average Techdirt reader’s eyes rolling. The company that makes sugar-heavy energy drinks has become essentially a caricature of an overly aggressive trademark enforcer. This habit is somewhat surprising, given just how often the company loses lawsuits and oppositions, which one would think would be a deterrent for future behavior. Instead, it almost seems as though every loss only spurs Monster Energy on.
This continues on to today, when we learn that Monster Energy filed an opposition to a 21-year-old’s trademark application for his business, Monarch Energy. You’re probably thinking that the opposition is over the name of the young man’s company, which would itself be a stretch as trademark infringement. But, no, it’s over the kid’s proposed logo.
At age 16, Mason McGuire discovered arthritis in his lower back. The mountain biker, baseball player and motorcycle rider wanted to stay active without aggravating his newfound aches. One year older, the Forest Charter School graduate decided to start his own business to mitigate his problems, and hopefully ease those of others.
While taking a business course at Sierra College, the words of one individual continued to ring in his head: “My teacher kept saying, ‘You’ll never learn it until you do it,’” he said.
So he did.
But on July 30, McGuire received a letter that stunted his company’s development. Monster Energy filed a notice of opposition against his company, Monarch Energy, for violating trademark rules. Specifically, it said McGuire’s logo was too similar to Monster’s.
Are the logos similar? No, they damn well are not.
Other than the fact that both logos incorporate the letter “M” and both companies list their names below that “M”, there is little to nothing similar about these two logos. The names of the companies, both prominently displayed, are different. The fonts are different. The styling around the letter “M” is different. The rest of the trade dress is different. Are people going to be confused by these two company logos? No, they absolutely are not.
And, yet, this 21 year old has had to deal with this opposition before even getting his company truly off the ground.
Despite maintaining distinctions, McGuire said he was a bit nervous Monster Energy would file a claim against his company, because of Monster’s history of filing lawsuits, so he tried doing his due diligence before choosing the logo.
“I made sure to go over the rules many times that wouldn’t infringe with Monster,” he said. But, he later said he suspected the large energy company might intervene legally anyway.
McGuire acknowledges that there is no trademark police per se, meaning that Monster Energy must be aware of smaller businesses trying to exploit its brand. But, he added, the company can drop the court filing once it realizes an entrepreneur is not acting in bad faith.
“I don’t care too much that they’re going after me,” he said. But McGuire — who has yet to hire an attorney — said he could lose his business with the possible legal fees needed to combat Monster Energy. He also said he can’t afford a new trademark to change his logo, for which he’s already paid.
Monster Energy doesn’t have to care about the harm it’s doing, of course, but it certainly should. Especially when this is yet another example of an opposition that never needed to be filed. But because Monster Energy wants to play the bully, a young man that started a business might lose it.
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